My video review:
Disclaimer: Master&Dynamic MW65 were sent to us free of charge in exchange for our honest review. We thank team Master&Dynamic for this opportunity.
Couple of months ago I compared a trio of best wireless headphones and was quite surprised by how much the wireless tech advanced in the past years or so. AptX-HD, LDAC and HWA Bluetooth codecs are surely the future of lossless wireless audio transmission. Add active-noise cancellation and you can basically listen to music anywhere you want, even in the most crowded places on Earth.
I’ll confess: Since Master&Dynamic (M&D from now on) launched MH40 and MH30 I was always curious about this brand. I’m a person that cares about sound quality the most, but I do care about looks as much. When I’ve seen MH40 and the smaller MH30 models I was stunned by their looks, by their fine craftsmanship and by the careful selection of materials, just look at them, words are just useless. I never tested those two because there is still not a single M&D reseller locally and buying blindly is not my thing.
M&D approached and asked if I would make a review for their MW65 Wireless headphones, I spilled my morning coffee on me and of course gladly accepted, I can’t pass on this.
Unboxing & Package Contents
Without sounding too excited I’ll tell you that M&D used among the nicest packaging I’ve seen for a portable headphone. There is a big attention to detail, everything is sharp looking and aligned. MW65 is staying in a quite thick cardboard box with foam padding inside. The impressive looking MW65 is the first thing you will see, underneath them two compartments will house all the paperwork (a quick start guide, warranty information) and an accessory box that contains a simple headphone cable terminated in 3.5mm jacks (1/8”) at both ends, a USB type-C charging cable, a USB type-C to Type-A adapter and a flight adapter. There is also a nice-looking pouch, the lower part is made out of leather and the upper part from a soft material. I would trade it with a hard carry case, but the bundled one works too, I already tested its protectiveness in my 2-week vacation from which I just came back.
Looks & Build Quality
From the moment you pick them up you start realizing how clever M&D MW65 were designed from the ground up. It is clear to me that their designer put a lot of effort into making them look unique, retro and futuristic in the same time. In my opinion in terms of visual expression there are only two headphone brands that are pushing the envelope and those are Meze Audio and Master&Dynamic. I have nothing to reproach, MW65 are turning heads every time I walk with them outside.
The housing is entirely metal made, the headband and the detachable ear-pads are covered in lambskin leather, these are premium looking headphones to me. MW65 are completely closed so the mesh pattern you see on the outside is just for looks.
The cable and the ear-pads are of course detachable and easily interchangeable, even the headphone structure is hold by just bolts and nuts and can be repaired even with home tools.
They have a quite simple adjusting mechanism, just put them on your head and they will automatically adjust to your head size. There is a higher pressure on top of the head that can be bothersome in the long run. The yokes can turn the headphone cups and put them on a flat surface, apart from that MW65 can’t fold to save some space in the carry pouch.
The left cup carries the ANC button that has 3 positions (ANC High, ANC Low and ANC OFF) and a 3-way switch that will enter the Bluetooth pairing mode, the BT playing mode and the third position is using it as a simple wired headphone, turning-off all the wireless tech. The right cup has a simple volume up and down buttons, the middle button works as a pause button for a short press and a long press calls for the Google Assistant to help you out.
Technology Inside M&D MW65
There one thing that really caught my attention that is the Beryllium coated 40mm dynamic driver. We all know the French high-end headphone maker Focal first introduced this really stiff yet lightweight and very resistant material in the upper-class Utopia model. Master&Dynamic decided to apply it to their driver for its acoustic and reliability properties and I’m glad they did that as MW65 are quite different sounding compared to the previous noise-canceling portable headphones I tested of late.
The headphone drivers have an impedance on 32 Ohms, no sensitivity numbers were given but from my own experience they are quite easy to drive, nothing too serious, any headphone jack will work with them. To push those drivers Neodymium magnets were used for the best results.
Second interesting fact is that MW65 are using the advanced aptX-HD to boost the wireless audio bitrate to 576 Kb/s at up to 24 bit/48 kHz, a nice improvement over the aging SBC, AAC and over the regular aptX. The only downside I see in terms of wireless tech is the use of Bluetooth version 4.2 instead of the newest 5.0, the newest one should improve the range.
M&D also developed the feed-forward and feed-back (hybrid) Active Noise Cancelation (ANC for short) technology and MW65 is their first model to receive it. It all was possible by using a beamforming noise reduction mic array, I counted 5 mics but I know that just one mic is used for Google Assistant and making calls, so the rest 4 are used for the ANC tech. It has 3 positions: ANC high – basically the most battery intensive setting that will block maximum amount of noise. ANC low will block less noise but will extend the battery life and ANC off will extend the battery life even more and the headphones will rely on the passive noise attenuation by the leather pads and the closed design.
The headphone has a battery life of up to 24 hours (with ANC turned off) and a 20+ meter (65+ foot) signal range. I tested them in my flat and two thick concrete walls and a 10-meter range already drops the signal, a single concrete wall was not a problem. Walking outside with then on my head connected to an aptX-HD capable smartphone worked as a charm and in my 2-week vacation the signal never dropped on me.
I used them in three different setups:
- Connected to my desktop Aurora R7 PC and playing a game
- Connected to my smart TV and watching a movie
- Connected to Android smartphone and streaming Tidal Hi-Fi
My desktop PC is not that powerful when it comes to Bluetooth capabilities as it uses only BT version 4.0, so without any aptX or aptX-HD. Nonetheless, to my surprise I didn’t have any lag when playing demanding games and I also didn’t have any lip-sync issues when watching some YouTube videos. In this regard they worked much better than the Creative Outlier Air and the Hifiman TWS600 that both had lip-sync issues and a bit of background noise once I would move the mouse. The clarity of course did go down just because SBC is a weak BT codec that sacrifices a lot of sound quality in exchange for a stronger BT signal.
They worked as good with my TV and I could easily watch a movie with them on my head. Lip-sync was perfect, they didn’t have any lag when playing a racing game on a console, they actually worked really nice with a home game console and with a smart TV, no complaints here. Watching movies at night with them is a really nice feature that I recommend to yourself. If your kids or wife/girlfriend are sleeping and you really want to watch a movie on the big screen, no problemo with some wireless headphones like these ones.
I. Wireless Performance
The last test I did was connecting them to my smartphone that is Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX-HD compatible. I was not surprised to hear a much clearer presentation, the sound was wider spread around me, muddiness effect disappeared and actually I could hear an additional layer of detail and separation.
In the past 3 weeks some of my favorite bands released new singles and albums so I had a lot to do in my vacation. Tidal Hi-Fi came to the rescue as I could listen to those albums the moment they were released.
MW65 shown a quite clear presentation without overdoing anything too much. In my opinion MW65 are not having big dips or peaks in terms of frequency response and are sounding clearer than all wireless headphones I used in the past.
Since MW65 is a closed-back headphone it is quite obvious they will have a very good bass response.
Sub-bass was good, very good actually on the right tracks. My usual bass tracks revealed that layers of sub-bass notes are still present on them, they have a nice punch in the bass department, this was quite clear from my first moments with them. There is just a very small slope in the sub-bass area, from the 50Hz and going down I hear just a smooth slope that rolls-off the sub-bass a bit.
Mid-bass area is better, among the best parts of it, as it is never overdone but still has a lot of texture, has a good punch and impact. With its big 40mm drivers MW65 is capable of moving quite some air mass around so any music you will listen to, but especially faster music will sound lively, punchy and quite up-lifting. The more I listen I realize that this is a very linear mid-bass performance, the one I like the most: clear, detailed and punchy. In my opinion MW65 are having a clearer bass response compared to the Sony WH-1000XM3 and to the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless that I tested not too long ago.
Midrange performance is very reminiscent of the bass performance and it is the second-best part of them. MW65 is again playing the clean, defined and detailed game without adding a lot of coloration. This is not a safe game, since both Sennheiser and Sony have more bloom, more meat in this area. I am a linearity addict and the best headphone for me is that that has a straight line across the audio frequency and MW65 is closer to that target than the other two I mentioned above.
As a result, MW65 are not warm sounding, they do not emphasis this area, they are really not adding a lot character of their own and chose to have an honest presentation. Voices are clean sounding, not really soul reaching or overly smooth, but somewhere in the middle. MW65 are kind of life-like sounding, without adding a lot to the mix, I really like that but I know a lot will want just a bit of coloration in their performance. All in all, midrange will never sound dry, shouty, or metallic, just clean, smooth, detailed and quite extended.
The transition to treble is done smoothly without any drops. Moving upwards at the most sensitive part of our ears and brain (6 - 7kHz area) there is a mild drop in that region to create this relaxing and smooth performing treble. As a result, the treble is never jumpy and will never bother too much the listener. Even bad mastered metal sounds good with them. Newest albums by In Flames and Slipknot were very listenable, enjoyable even as the cymbals and hi-hats never drove me crazy. I would like just a little bit more information in this area, but I understand very well why this decision was made. With MW65 you can listen to hours and hours at a time without a lot of listening fatigue, the only part that will tire me down is the top of the leather headband that puts pressure on top of my head, bending it might help but I can’t risk damaging them.
The upper treble is actually better rendered and gives the impression of clean, airy and detailed sound, I think the sub-sonic treble area is very good, quite unusual for a closed-back headphone if you ask me. All in all, they have a right amount of spark and zing in the treble area to catch the attention of the listener and small little nuances can be spotted with a little bit of attention.
I got back from my trip, moved my impressions files to my desktop and decided to measure them to check if my hearing can still be trusted. I used the Matrix Audio Element X as the guinea pig for my tests and Benchmark HPA4 for headphone amp duties. For the measurements I used a MiniDSP E.A.R.S. (Earphone Audio Response System) and of course M&D MW65 were used wired for these tests.
First, I used the Original Headphone Compensation (HPN) and then Headphone Compensation For Flat EQ (HEQ) and here are my graphs.
As you can see, their measured performance is exceptional, especially if you take into consideration that this is a closed-back headphone. The left and right driver are closely matched, the deviation is so small that it cannot be spotted.
The sub-bass performance is good with just a small roll-off in the sub-bass area, other than that the mid-bass and the midrange are close to being perfect. The target SPL was 84 dB so as you can see the deviation for this target is really minimal. Mid-bass and midrange are as good as it can be. The dip in the 5 to 6 kHz area can also be spotted, that dip creates the impression of smoothness and calms down the treble a bit. Upper-treble or sub-sonic treble is performing good and has just a small deviation. All in all, a very good frequency response and some impressive measurements.
Waterfall reading and the spectrogram shows a very stable performance, and as you can see the whole sound is tight and not leaking all over the place. The quickness of the driver can be spotted in these graphs as you see the spectrogram is free of any grain or leak. It is clear that MW65 chose a faster presentation and will not offer a longer decay of the notes, so all in all these are fast, articulate, and hard slamming headphones.
III. Wired Performance
I resumed my listening session but this time ditched my phone in exchange with a much higher performance desktop setup. Matrix Element X was used as a DAC and Benchmark HPA4 as a headphone amp.
From the moment I pressed play I immediately felt that the whole presentation is even clearer, dynamics were better, slam was also better, but the biggest impact was felt in terms of detail retrieval.
As good as wireless tech can be it is still not on the same page with an ordinary cable, of course it depends to what are you attaching that cable but MW65 sang beautifully and actually very engaging and enveloping.
Listening to the same tracks revealed that the transient response is even faster and everything sounded alive and agile. In the slam department I think MW65 are actually very good and can even be on par with some planar-magnetic headphones. MW65 are opposed to sloppy and boring and that is quite apparent even on classical music where I was already conducting the performance in my mind.
MW65 are not very picky in terms of how clean the headphone output is, I actually never heard the noise-floor of an amplifier with it, so anything will work with them. Background noise was always in check and the performance was always clear as the night sky.
The only real thing that can be considered a downside is the size of the soundstage. Wired or wireless MW65 were not too impressive in terms of soundstage size, it was mid-sized at best and up-front at worst so you if you crave for an enveloping open and wide soundscape you should look at some open-back headphones.
The culprit of the small soundstage is not the driver assembly but the small cup design and lots of dampening behind the driver. A larger cup will have a larger sound, but portable ones can’t have those. All portable closed-back headphones are having this issue.
IV. Active Noise Cancellation
I would like to leave some words about their ANC capabilities. I visited Venice and told myself that I need to visit the most crowded place there and test the ANC tech, Piazza San Marco was really crowded that day, I could barely walk between people. After engaging the ANC, putting it on high position and pausing my music a lot of that noise did go down, nonetheless some of that chat can still be heard, especially the higher pitched noise. After testing the ANC in different places, even in front of a big Hi-Fi setup I understood that they are blocking mostly sounds in the bass and midrange area and less noise in the treble area. Higher pitched sounds are filtered just to some degree. I consider the ANC tech better than that of Sennheiser Momentum Wireless but worse that than of Sony WH-1000XM3.
As with all wireless headphones once ANC in engaged even in a complete silent room there is a fain noise, and no matter what I do, it will not go away, I experienced the same with other wireless headphones.
Here is another painful fact, when ANC is engaged the sound quality takes a small hit, the biggest change I hear is in terms of speed, slam and detail retrieval. With ANC engaged WM65 would sound not as clean and not as fast as with ANC off so here is my recommendation: If you going to listen wirelessly, try with ANC off first and see if at your listening place the passive noise cancelation of the leather earcups will be enough, if not go with ANC low and only if your environment is really noisy then go with ANC high. You should also try them wired; you would be surprised by the jump in sound quality.
There isn’t a point in comparing these with the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 that I still own because Master&Dynamic MW65 are just better, wired or wireless MW65 will sound clearer, much more engaging, will hit harder and will offer a better detail retrieval. Momentum 2.0 by comparison have a rise in midrange that boost the vocal performance but as a result, makes them far from linear sounding. Both are good, MW65 is just in a different league.
I finally put my hands on a pair of Master&Dynamic headphones and I am very glad I did. In terms of design and build quality MW65 is a work of art with those beautiful clean lines and insane amounts of attention to details.
Build quality wise you cannot have a better material combination than this (aluminum alloy and lambskin leather), I really like the way they look and I am looking forward to their future designs.
Sound quality is quite high by my standards and the measurement performance is excellent. To this day MW65 are the first wireless headphones that didn’t have lip-sync issues with my PC.
M&D MW65 is a good headphone build to high standards and as such it was priced accordingly, it will set you off $500 in the US and €500 here in Europe. If they are worth it or not, I will leave that for you to decide.
- Elegant design, premium selected materials
- Super long batter life with ANC off
- Wide Bluetooth codec support
- Extended and linear frequency response
- Tonally rich and hard slamming
- No harshness/brightness whatsoever
- Clear and transparent sounding, good detail retrieval
- Can be used with a wide variety of devices (Smart TVs, laptops, desktop PC, tablets, smartphones and so on)
- Lack of Bluetooth version 5.0, LDAC and HWA
- Soundstage is not the widest
- Sources: Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Alienware Aurora R7, Sony Bravia 65XE9005
- DACs: Matrix Audio Element X, FiiO K5 PRO, Q5S
- Headphone amps: Benchmark HPA4, Erzetich Bacillus, Headamp Gilmore Lite Mk2
- IEMs: IKKO OH1, FiiO FA7
- True Wireless headphones: Creative Outlier Air, Hifiman TWS600
- Full-sized headphones: Hifiman Arya, Quad ERA-1, Sennheiser HD660S
- Wireless headphones: Master&Dynamic MW65, Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless
- Loudspeakers: KEF LS50W
- Interconnects: QED Reference XLR, Aune AL3 XLR
- Power Cables: Isotek EVO3 Premier
- Balanced Power Conditioners: PLiXiR Elite BAC 400, KECES BP-600